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the chocolate new wave

The cacao tree originated in the Amazon basin. It was propagated throughout Central and South America by the people in these regions. During the colonial era, and during various development projects in the last hundred years, cacao was brought to other regions of the globe and planted as a cash crop. Some of these regions have become major suppliers to the commodity confection market. In other regions cacao is one of many crops cultivated by small share farmers. In some cases the cacao groves have been lost or abandoned and integrated into the surrounding forest, where they continue to propagate.

Over the last 20 years or so, a new wave of small chocolate makers has emerged, and we count ourselves among this community of small 'bean to bar' chocolate makers. These chocolate makers concentrate on exploring the finer flavor aspects of cacao (elements which have often been compromised or sacrificed in mass-produced confection for the sake of disease resistance or productivity). We prioritize ethical sourcing, developing relationships with the farmer producers and with the brokers who help us procure our cacao. Together we represent only about 5% of the world's cacao market.

Maya Mountain Cacao works with 350+ certified organic smallholder cacao farming families in the Toledo District of southern Belize. Most of these farmers are indigenous Q’eqchi’ and Mopan Maya. The cacao is centrally processed at a post-harvest facility where three unique stages of sun drying create optimal flavor. While ancient criollo can still be found deep in the nature reserves of Belize and on small private plots, the vast majority of cacao cultivated by the smallholder Maya farmers of the south are Amelonado-dominant hybrids and other Upper Amazon Forastero hybrids. Genetic testing of the beans through support of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative suggest the diversity of clones in Belize likely originates from the CDC and Hershey plantings as well as seeds brought across the border over hundreds of years from Mayan communities in Guatemala.

Sourcing Partner: Uncommon Cacao

We loved this microlot so much that we bought it in its entirety... all 400 lbs produced by farmer Herbert Pasqual last year! It is an honor to introduce this complex flavored cacao to the world. La Corona Estate is the site of a new post-harvest processing facility in Tamana, Trinidad, which has many cacao estates both abandoned and active. For a long time most producers in the area sold wet beans to a centralized fermentary. The new La Corona fermentation and drying facility is giving neighbouring farmers another option for sale of their wet beans. Through this collaboration, farmers like Mr. Pasqual receive support and resources in order to produce higher value ‘fine flavor’ cacao.